I’m probably not the best person to review the new Xerath album, III, because I haven’t really liked either of the first two. I tried to come into this with an open mind, but I’ll give a spoiler: it just isn’t my thing.
Xerath are known for symphonic metal. On the surface, I like the concept. There’s no reason that metal and orchestra can’t get along. I personally haven’t heard it done in a way that I think works great. III might be the closest I’ve heard to a good balance.
The album opens pretty strong. It is one of the few songs that really focuses the symphonic elements (along with the closer, which makes me think, what happened in the middle?). The balance is really great where the metal and orchestra trade back and forth in focus, and periodically come together to mutually support what the other is doing.
The song eventually settles into a groove, and despite using the orchestra effectively, the whole song is a bit cliché for me. It sounds like it could be the background music in an ’80’s film where they show the main character go through some transformation working out in a montage (Rocky, Karate Kid, something like that).
The symphonic metal aspects typically take a back seat throughout the rest of the album. They are there to be sure, but the balance is tipped towards a metal band mostly. The orchestra mostly provide texture through sustained notes or punches with the vocals. This is fine. It is what they chose to do, and I think it works for them. It’s just not what I would do.
My main issue with the album is that when I step away from it the only thing I could tell you about it is that I remember a bunch of generic sounding chord progressions, riffs, and grooves. Almost nothing about it pulls my interest or sounds very original.
I remember some solid rocking out parts to some grooves, but nothing specific about it. I’ll admit this criticism is a little unfair, because by about the fifth time through I started to notice that the music was a lot more subtle than I was giving it credit for.
There’s some pretty cool rhythmic things that happen and subtleties with time signatures. The sound has some depth to it with interesting almost inaudible background stuff (like a spoken word part that is hard to notice).
Since I’m listing things I don’t like, I’ll also say that I think it drags on a bit too long. It is over an hour and eight minutes long. This can work, but for something I find so generic, it starts to get to me by the end. A Mahler symphony can get away with this, because it is so varied throughout. The songs on this album all blur together for me.
Alright, I know I’m going to get some hate for this one, but what exactly do people like about this? I find it enjoyable enough as background music while I play NetHack (yes, people still play that!) or something. But nothing about it stands out as very interesting. Other than those few moments I mentioned, it is just a standard 4/4 rock beat with a standard rock chord progression and some added sustained string parts.
Overall, I give this a 6/10. It has entered my gaming music rotation, so I don’t hate it. It is by far their best effort so far in my eyes, but it’s nothing special. Here’s a sample: